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Real Estate News

Updated: Saturday, April 20, 2019

3 Ways to Reduce Your Closing Costs

Saving up for a down payment is probably the biggest challenge, especially for first time home buyers, but closing costs also need to be addressed. Here are three ways buyers can reduce or eliminate these costs.

The first way is to have your lender quote you an interest rate that provides a lender credit toward your closing costs. When your lender quotes rates and fees to you, yoursquo;ll get a range of rates from lower to higher. Lower rates will require upfront interest in the form of a discount point. One discount point equals one percent of the amount borrowed. On a 300,000 loan, one point is then 3,000.

For example, if your lender offers 4.25 with no points on a 30 year loan you might also be able to get a 4.00 by paying one point upfront. The lender really doesnrsquo;t care if you pay points or not, itrsquo;s completely your call. You have the option of paying interest upfront in the form of a point or you can pay the interest over the term of the loan without paying a point.

If you take that 4.25 rate one step further, say to 4.50, the lender may offer a one point credit. Your monthly payment goes up by a little, but you also saved on closing costs. On that same 300,000 30 year loan, the 4.50 rate gave you a 3,000 credit at the settlement table. There is some math involved to determine which rate is best in your situation and your loan officer will walk you through the process.

Another way to reduce your closing costs is to have the sellers pay them for you. This involves you and your real estate agent making an offer that asks the sellers to pay for all or some of your fees. Your offer might include verbiage that asks the sellers to pay a certain percentage of the sales price, say 1 or 2 of the sales price or you might ask for a specific amount, such as 3,000.

Different loan programs place certain limits on how much the sellers can pay so yoursquo;ll need to check with your loan officer before making the offer. Most such limits are ra>

Finally, if the sellers decide to decline your request, you can adjust the sales price upward. If the sales price is 300,000 and closing costs are 3,000, you can offer 303,000 while then asking the sellers to pay 3,000 of your costs. The sellers net the same amount at the closing table and you donrsquo;t have to come up with an additional 3,000 for closing costs. One potential issue with this method is making sure the property will appraise at the higher amount, but a one percent increase usually wonrsquo;t cause any problems. And yes, when making a higher offer that also means your loan amount will also go up the difference in monthly payment is ba>

Closing costs will need to be addressed just as a down payment needs to be. Your loan officer will provide you with an initial cost estimate that will generally match up with your final settlement, so yoursquo;ll know what to expect. You can adjust your rate upward, have the sellers pay for them as part of your offer, or increase your offer slightly to include an amount reflecting your expected settlement fees.

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Tips For Redecorating While On A Budget


Before you start buying new furniture, bedding, and fixtures that will quickly eat through your budget, start by taking an inventory of what you already have. Think about ways that things can be reused. Simple furniture pieces can be painted or even just have the hardware changed out that will change the way a piece looks.

Many types of furniture can serve a different purpose. An unused dining table can become a desk. That old sofa table can be used as a mobile bar if wheels are added. Even a broken dresser can be salvaged and transformed.

Simple Appearances

Bigger is not always better. Sometimes a few simple changes can make a big impact, with minimal expense. Updating paint colors or just adding an accent wall is one way. You can also change out throw rugs and light fixtures. A small thing, like changing lamp shades or the glass covers on your ceiling fans or overhead lighting, can have a big visual impact as well.

Add covers to pillows and duvets to bedspreads. But what is a duvet? Think of the duvet like a pillow case for bedspreads. You can put an existing bedspread inside the duvet and create an enti>

Thrifty Shopping

If you still plan to make some purchases, consider used pieces. Second-hand or thrift stores are often great places to buy deacute;cor items without spending a fortune. Wholesale, liquidation, and salvage places can also help save some money. Remember to consider possible alternate uses for items as well.

Keep your eyes open for things that people are trying to sell, too. Visit yard sales and flea markets. You can find a wide variety of items that people are selling for low prices. Swap meets are also good places to locate what you might need, while giving you the opportunity to get rid of something that no longer suits your tastes or needs.


An alternative to pricey reprints, or even more expensive originals, is to create your own artwork to display. Try your skill at painting or decoupage. Frame your childrsquo;s latest art piece. You can even find free artwork to print and use at home. Spruce up some old wooden frames. Things like foiling and sponging can help you turn drab frames into decorative displays.

One at a Time

The most important thing to remember is to take it one step at a time. Try not to redecorate every room at the same time. You may need to divide your budget into chunks for each room that you want to redecorate. If you go room by room, you may find that you have some money left over that can be used for other rooms. By going one room at a time, you can avoid getting overwhelmed because you have taken on too much at once.

There are numerous options for redecorating on a budget, regardless of how small that budget might be. In your redecorating efforts, you can make huge changes just as easily as you can make small ones, both impacting the final result of a room. In the end, your home can be a display of the things you enjoy in an atmosphere that best suits you.

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How to Scam-Proof Your Roof

Wersquo;re talking about those who show up at your door unannounced with an offer to check out your roof or repair/replace it for a price that seems too good to be true, and then run off with your money without fixing anythingmdash;or doing a shoddy job.

ldquo;Some of the most unbelievable home improvement rip-offs come from scam-artists disguised as roofers,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofing contractors have to deal with an unfairly tarnished reputation because consumers are too often taken in by unlicensed pretenders.rdquo;

We tapped several top roofers to get their advice on what to watch out for and how to protect yourself from costly scams.

Ignore unsolicited offers

ldquo;Even if you really are in need of a new roof, do not work with a roofer who knocked on your door uninvited,rdquo; said Mosby Building Arts. ldquo;Reputable roofers only engage when you have made the first call to request their services.rdquo;

Donrsquo;t sign anything

ldquo;Some roofers, especially the storm chasers, like to use high-pressure tactics to get you to sign a contract,rdquo; said Excel Roofing. ldquo;They may even hand you a document and claim it gives them permission to inspect your roof and contact your insurance company. Bottom line is this: donrsquo;t sign it. Donrsquo;t sign anything a roofer hands you unless you are 110 sure you want this person and his or her company to roof your home.rdquo;

Do your research

ldquo;You want to do your homework before you waste your time talking to a roofing contractor who wonrsquo;t make the cut in the end,rdquo; said Peak Roofing Contractors. ldquo;There are many places you can do research these days including countless sites on the internet. When you look at reviews, remember that you canrsquo;t please all the people all the time so reviews should be looked at in their totality. It may be even more important to see how a company responds to a bad review. Donrsquo;t forget to ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences with local companies and check the Better Business Bureau. When you visit a companyrsquo;s website, make sure they have a local address and talk in detail about the service you need.rdquo;

Never, ever give a roofer any money upfront

ldquo;You donrsquo;t get your paycheck until after yoursquo;ve punched the clock, so why pay a roofer before any work gets done? A roofer has no incentive to follow through with the work once the cash is already in his pocket,rdquo; said Absolute Roofers. ldquo;Make sure you sign a contract first, stating that hersquo;ll get paid once the work is done. If he still tries to get you to pay up front, itrsquo;s time to tell him to hit the highway.rdquo;
Asking the right questions can help you narrow down roofers and choose the best one. A few things to ask, according to Tadlock Roofing, are:

bull; Is the company properly licensed for the job?
bull; Does the company carry liability insurance and workersrsquo; compensation insurance?
bull; Are there more than three testimonials or references you can check?

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Do Energy-Efficient Windows Really Save You Money?

An energy audit of your home is often the best option for evaluating your homersquo;s insulation and the efficiency of your major appliances, and your local utility companies can often arrange such an audit for you. However, note some vital information about new thermal windows and other energy-saving features in the home so that you can make the best decision for your house and your utilities budget

What Are Thermal Windows?

Simply put, thermal windows are windows that have energy-efficient properties. These windows are often made of multiple panes versus a single pane, or they are manufactured with specialty glass designed to offer more insulating features than standard window glass.

Double-glazed and triple-glazed windows are made with two or three panes of glass, attached with a layer of argon gas between them. Argon gas offers excellent insulating properties, keeping heat or cold out of the home while not allowing your own heating and cooling to escape from inside the home
Low-E glass is covered with a thin coating that transmits light but blocks heat. Low-E glass is an excellent option for homes in tropical environments as it allows lots of light into a home but not uncomfortable heat.
Energy-efficient windows often have frames made with dense and durable materials that donrsquo;t conduct heat or cold, also improving their overall insulating materials. Vinyl and PVC are popular choices for frames, adding to the energy efficiency of those windows.

How Much Do Energy Efficiency Windows Save?

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that most homeowners save an average of 126 to 465 per year by choosing thermal or energy savings windows. While this may not seem like much savings, note that upgraded windows also help to create a more comfortable interior environment. When windows are old and outdated and allow drafts into the home, or donrsquo;t block outside heat and humidity, your homersquo;s interior might always feel chilly or hot and stuffy no matter how often you cycle on the furnace or air conditioner.

New windows also improve a homersquo;s overall curb appeal, potentially even increasing your property values. Scratched, nicked, chipped, or otherwise damaged windows often look yellowed and streaky. Upgraded windows look clean and streak-free from both inside and outside the home

Choosing new windows also allows you to opt for an updated window >

Why Do Older Windows Get Drafty?

In addition to considering the benefits of upgraded, thermal residential windows, itrsquo;s also good to note the disadvantages of keeping old windows in your home First note that window glass tends to become thin and brittle over time. This thin glass does a poor job of keeping heat and cold outside the home

A house will also shift and settle on its foundation so that its framework is no longer perfectly level and even. In turn, window frames pull away from the structure itself, leading to cracks and leaks that allow in cold drafts in wintertime and overly hot, humid air in summertime

New double-glazed or triple-glazed windows are without outside nicks, scratches, and other damage, and are strong and thick against exterior temperatures. New thermal windows also typically install with their own frames, closing up those leaks and cutting off resultant, bothersome drafts.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Home Energy-Efficient

Selecting new thermal windows for a home is an excellent means of adding to your overall comfort inside your home and for lowering your utility bills. However, new windows are not your only option for increasing energy efficiency in your home and saving money on your heating and cooling costs. Note five tips for creating a more energy-efficient home environment:

bull; Add window attachments designed for energy efficiency in particular. For example, solar shades are thin enough to allow sunlight into the home while still blocking uncomfortable outside heat. The thermal window experts at EnerPro Window Replacement of Denver note that these window attachments even reduce glare on computer and television screens while blocking unwanted heat
bull; Poorly-fitting doors allow drafts into the home while also letting out your heating and air conditioning. A carpenter can note if your homersquo;s entryway doors are uneven with gaps around its frame and can usually tighten or otherwise rehang the doors to seal up those gaps. Draft guards at the bottom of entryway doors also block lots of outside heat and cold.
bull; Weatherstripping is an easy and affordable means of blocking drafts around movable parts in the home, including doors and windows. A line of weatherstripping over a window sash and around a doorframe will close up gaps and reduce drafts and the loss of heating and cooling in the home.
bull; Water heaters cycle on when the water in the tank reaches a certain temperature. If your homersquo;s water heater is in the basement or a chilly utility room, consider installing an insulating blanket around the tank. This will keep the water warmer and reduce the number of times the heater cycles on.
bull; Ensure that your homersquo;s attic or crawlspace is properly insulated and the roof vents are in good condition and never obstructed. As heat rises in summertime, it tends to get caught in homes with poor insulation and low-quality vents, creating a hot and stuffy home interior. High-quality insulation in the attic or crawlspace also keeps out wintertime cold, especially vital in snowy areas when a homersquo;s roof is often covered with cold snow and ice

Consider all these tips when yoursquo;re in the market for energy-efficient windows. By adding weatherstripping and checking your homersquo;s insulation, along with choosing upgraded windows, yoursquo;re sure to see a reduction in your utility costs and enjoy a more comfortable home environment as well

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Why Is Everyone Moving to Austin?

Migration to Austin has skyrocketed over the last decade; according to MagnifyMoney, ldquo;60 of the cityrsquo;s current residents moved here since 2010.rdquo; That increase in population has put pressure on housing, resulting in diminishing inventory and skyrocketing home prices. Yet, still they come. At a rate of nearly 150 people per day

So what makes Austin so ideal? Wersquo;re breaking it down.

The jobs

Austin has the fastest job growth in the nation 40 since 2006,rdquo; according to MagnifyMoney, along with ldquo;>

The city has been called ldquo;the next Silicon Valleyrdquo; and is even referred to as ldquo;Silicon Hillsrdquo; thanks to the many tech and tech->

bull; Facebook
bull; Apple
bull; Google
bull; eBay
bull; Hewlett-Packard
bull; Dell
bull; IBM
bull; Cisco Systems
bull; 3M
bull; Intel
bull; Samsung

Itrsquo;s weird

The cityrsquo;s motto, ldquo;Keep Austin weird,rdquo; originated as a promotion for the Austin Independent Business Alliancersquo;s small local businesses in the city, and stuck. Today, itrsquo;s representative of a culture that remains a little hippy, a little creative, a little more evolved, and decidedly more liberal than much of the rest of the state of Texas.

Itrsquo;s welcoming

ldquo;The creative, collaborative hub still feels like a small town,rdquo; said Culture Trip. ldquo;Street art, local fashion and jewelry designers, art galleries, and studio walks ndash; Austin is a community that values art and working together. In fact, Austin was ranked the number one place in the U.S. to start a business by CNBC in 2016. Though nearly every chain imaginable is available, Austin runs on small businesses, meaning itrsquo;s possible to eat, shop, and explore for months before stopping by a chain store or restaurant. Food, fitness, and clothing brands join forces most weekends with ample flea markets, farmerrsquo;s markets, and pop-ups to attend.rdquo;

An abundance of events and activities

There is always something to do here, from hanging out in Zilker Park to checking out the live music scene. Events like SXSW in March, the Austin Food amp; Wine Festival in late April, and Austin City Limits in October draw more attentionmdash;and more visitors who then become residentsmdash;to the city.

Great restaurants

ldquo;This ever-expanding city is the epicenter of oak-smoked barbecue and the greasy foothold of Tex-Mex fare,rdquo; said Eater. ldquo;While longtime restaurants keep a close eye on the surprisingly abundant bounty the hot climate provides, new restaurants just keep coming due to Austins >

Plenty of housing

ldquo;There are two things that drive population growthmdash;jobs and affordable housing,rdquo; said Medium. ldquo;Austin has bothhellip;and although housing prices and property values in the city proper continue to rise, cheap land and little regulations in surrounding areas make it easy for developers to build large scale projects quickly. For the past few years, Austinrsquo;s home sales hit a record high according to the Austin Board of Realtors, with little signs of stopping.rdquo;

Home values

Despite the aggressive rise in home prices over the last decade-plusmdash;up 54 since 2006mdash;homebuyers still enjoy appreciation in their homes thanks to the popularity of the city. According to Zillow, Austinrsquo;s current median home value is 365,600. ldquo;Values have gone up 7.6 over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.6 within the next year.rdquo;

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5 Things That Can Do Double Duty When Cleaning Your House

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

Dirty baseboards. Scuff marks on sneakers. Crayon or pen on painted walls. Shower scum. What do they all have in common? They can be cleaned with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Theyrsquo;re good in a pinch and also as a regular addition to your cleaning regime, so do like we do and buy them in bulk

Dryer Sheets

The sheet that keeps static cling away from your clothes while theyrsquo;re drying can also be useful in a few other areas of your home. Have company coming over and just realized yoursquo;re out of Swiffer Dusters? Run that Bounce over your surfaces, instead. The bonus: If you have scented dryer sheets, theyrsquo;ll leave a fresh smell behind. You can also use them to wipe window casings, baseboards, and doors that tend to collect dust and dirt in the grooves.

Sponges and Dishwashing Gloves

Forget those pots and pans. Sponges and dishwashing gloves can also help clean dog hair off of upholstered surfaces. This tip could come in very handy for a last-minute cleanup when you donrsquo;t have time to vacuum. For regular cleaning of dog hair on a stubborn surface like a low-pile rug, try a dog brush. The short, stuff bristles make it easy to gather the hair.

White Vinegar

Itrsquo;s not just for salad dressing Vinegar is a multi-purpose cleaning agent, and one you can feel good about if yoursquo;re looking to stay away from harsh chemicals and commercial cleaners.

ldquo;If you could invent a green-cleaning lsquo;wonderrsquo; product, it would probably end up being a lot like white vinegar,rdquo; said The Spruce. ldquo;Safe, readily available, and really cheap, there are perhaps hundreds of uses for vinegar. There are at least two great uses for vinegar in your automatic dishwasher. First, it can be used as a cheap, effective rinsing agent to get your glasses, plates, and other dishes sparkling clean. Second, it can help to clean the dishwasher itself: Once a year or so more if you have hard water, pour a cup of white vinegar into an empty dishwasher, then run it for a short cycle to get rid of the lime and soap build-up that can prevent your dishwasher from working at peak efficiency.rdquo;

White vinegar is also great for cleaning tile and caulk, ldquo;windows, hardwood floors, carpet stains, fireplace bricks and irons, CDs and DVDs, shower curtains, upholstery, mattresses, wood furniture when combined with olive oil, and glassware. If its in your house, you can probably clean it with vinegar.rdquo;


Pick up a few extra lemons at the market because yoursquo;ll get more use out of them than just as a squeeze in your water. ldquo;High in citric acid, lemon juice is one of the best natural cleaners due to its low pH and antibacterial properties,rdquo; said Networx.

These are just a few of the ways you can use lemon to clean your place:

bull; Spray on chrome faucets
bull; Rub on cutting boards
bull; Squeeze on an old toothbrush to scrub grout
bull; Add two tablespoons to a bowl of water to steam clean your microwave
bull; Place half lemon on a saucer to make your refrigerator smell fresh
bull; Spray a mixture of lemon juice and water onto windows to get them streak-free and clean
bull; Use half a cut lemon to remove hard water stains from glass shower doors

Lemon can also breathe new life into tarnished brass. ldquo;Its no secret we think this citrus fruit is one of the hardest-working cleaners when it comes to stains and smells, but it can also banish tarnish on brass,rdquo; said Good Housekeeping. ldquo;Sprinkle problem spots with salt, then run a lemon juice-soaked sponge on top, and rinse it off with water.rdquo;

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Dealing with Bully Offers in a Hot Market

Canadian real estate markets have generally cooled down during the last year, but there are always popular neighborhoods where bidding wars between buyers end up frustrating potential homeowners.

Recently the Ontario Real Estate Association OREA called on the provincial government to outlaw the practice of ldquo;bully offersrdquo;, also known as ldquo;pre-emptive offersrdquo; on real estate listings. In a hot market itrsquo;s common for sellers to delay all offer presentations to a specific time and date, as a way to increase interest in the property, create multiple offers and push up the price of the home.

A bully offer is when someone makes an offer ahead of the predetermined presentation date. Generally, the offer is for a limited time only so the seller does not get to compare it to whatever offers may come in on the set date.

get themselves into trouble if they donrsquo;t handle them correctly.

Last year, the Real Estate Council of Ontario RECO, which regulates salespeople in the province, fined an agent 10,000 in a bully offer case. The agent listed a property with a note stating that there would be a delayed offer presentation, and that all offers had to be registered with the agent by Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. The note said the seller reserved the right to consider pre-emptive offers.

On Feb. 19, a buyerrsquo;s representative contacted the listing salesperson to book a viewing appointment. Later the representative left a voicemail with the listing salesperson for more information about the property but did not get a return phone call.

The listing salesperson showed the property to another of his clients and prepared a bully offer. The offer was accepted and the other sales reps who had booked appointments were informed that the property had been sold and all viewings were cancelled.

RECO fined the agent for violating the industryrsquo;s Code of Ethics by failing to notify all the buyers who had expressed an interest in the property that an offer had come in, and that the offer was from his own client. He was also fined for not returning the voicemail message within a reasonable amount of time and for failing to tell the buyerrsquo;s representative that a written offer had been received for the property when they made the appointment to view the property.

There was nothing illegal about this transaction but it was bound to leave a bad taste in the mouths of all the would-be buyers.

ldquo;If a home listing includes an offer date, thatrsquo;s the date on which all offers should be considered; an offer made before that dateOuml; should not be allowed,rdquo; says OREA president Karen Cox. ldquo;This will ensure that all interested buyers of a particular home get a fair shot at making an offer. For sellers, it means they will have a chance to work with their Realtors to carefully and thoughtfully consider all offers without feeling like they are in a pressure cooker.rdquo;

OREA is also urging the elimination of escalation clauses, which can be used to top any better offer with a previously stipulated amount.

ldquo;A clause that allows a buyer to automatically bump all other offers out of the running in a multiple offer situation makes for a very uneven playing field,rdquo; says Cox. ldquo;Further, for an escalation clause to kick in, a Realtor must reveal private financial information, such as the highest offer on a home, to the buyer using the clause, which violates the Realtor Code of Ethics. Eliminating contradictory rules like this will strengthen consumer confidence in the provincersquo;s real estate market.rdquo;

So why would a buyer make a bully offer, and why would a seller accept one?

ldquo;Buyers sometimes do not want to get into the hassle of bidding and out-bidding other potential buyers during the sale of a property,rdquo; writes salesperson Hani Faraj of Re/Max Little Oak Realty in Vancouver on his blog. ldquo;Sometimes, once theyrsquo;ve settled on the decision to buy a house, they want to close the deal without any fight. A bully offer assures a clean slate from any competition or fight.rdquo;

In a 2013 blog, Toronto broker David Fleming of Bosley Real Estate says, ldquo;I have submitted several bully offers in the past few years that have been accepted, and all of them were at prices lower than what we would have offered on offer night. Thatrsquo;s the whole point, in my opinion. You get to test the waters, see what the sellerrsquo;s expectations are, and maybe yoursquo;ll get lucky.rdquo;

But Fleming says in his experience, less than 10 per cent of bully offers are successful.

ldquo;Irsquo;ve also been on the receiving end of several bully offers, as a listing agent, and I have never encouraged my sellers to accept them. Each and every time Irsquo;ve received a bully offer, Irsquo;ve always sold the house at a higher price on offer night. And more often than not, the agent who submitted the bully offer has come back with something higher on offer night.rdquo;

Faraj says bully offers sometimes seem attractive because they generally offer a good price and no conditions. An anxious seller may believe the price offered is the best they will get. He says sellers should consult with their Realtors and make sure they understand the valuation of the property.

ldquo;If the idea of receiving and dealing with bully offers gives you too much stress, inform your Realtor that you do not accept any such offers,rdquo; he says.

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Ask the HOA Expert: Welcome to the HOA Board

What does it mean to be on the board? You have made a commitment that you will serve the HOArsquo;s interests to the best of your ability, be fair on matters that come before the board, will do your best to preserve and enhance the values of the common areas and that you will spend money in a prudent manner. Being a director also means that you have fiduciary duties which require making reasonable investigation into matters dealt with and acting in a businesslike, prudent manner when making decisions.

Who is going to teach you? Hopefully, you have several veterans on the board who will help you. Ideally, you will have the property manager who works closely with the board and is willing to offer guidance. Continuity is one of a boardrsquo;s greatest challenges. Ask questions. How have issues been handled in the past?. Current boards should carefully consider plans laid by previous boards and not change them impulsively. Take time to become familiar with your association grounds and facilities. Review the HOArsquo;s governing documents, the rules and regulations, and any other board policies to develop a familiarity with them. Keep a set handy for when specific questions arise.
Make a commitment to attend all board meetings and prepare in advance by studying the agenda and >

Budget time offers an opportunity to help build a sound financial future for the community. The two basic parts of the budget are Operating deals with routine maintenance and day to day expenses and Reserves long range, major repairs and replacements. As a member of the board, you will be asked to predict future financial needs by using both past budget history and new information accumulated for future repairs.

How much does the job pay? While no money is paid, there are many personal rewards to be had for a job well done. Dealing with people requires patience and flexibility. Remember that while disagreement is not always avoidable, you were elected to make decisions. Consider carefully those decisions put before you and do your best. If you serve as a committed member, it will be one of the more rewarding experiences that you will have.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to

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What Exactly is a Manual Underwrite?

Today, loans are preapproved with an Automated Underwriting System, or AUS. When someone fills out an online application, the digital file is downloaded by the lender, reviewed and then entered into the AUS. This process is a rapid one, as the ldquo;findingsrdquo; of the submission are returned within a matter of moments. This speeds up the loan approval process tremendously. Prior to the advent of automated underwriting systems, the loan file was documented prior to submitting for an approval. With an automated system, the process is reversed. The loan is submitted for evaluation and documented afterward.

Note, the result of a submission isnrsquo;t a loan approval. Instead, itrsquo;s provides the lender with guidance on how to properly document the loan in order for the loan to be eligible for sale in the secondary market. Itrsquo;s the lender that approves the loan, not the AUS.

Most findings run down a basic checklist of items needed and theyrsquo;re fairly standard. Most recent pay check stubs covering 30 days, W2 forms from the last two years, tax returns and other pieces of documentation are listed.

The lender reviews the list, includes the items mentioned in the findings, and then sends the loan to the underwriter for a final review. This final review makes sure that whatever is asked for by the findings matches up with what is included in the file. Once that determination has been made, loan papers are prepared for delivery to the settlement agent.

But sometimes therersquo;s a hitch. Sometimes the findings come back with a term listed as ldquo;refer/eligible.rdquo; A submission returned with a response means the lender must make the determination without the benefit of an automated approval. A loan with a refer attached does not mean the loan has been turned down, but there is something that is holding up an automated approval. The lender can review and approve the loan internally and still be able to sell the loan in the secondary market. That is, as long as the items causing the loan to receive such a status have been resolved.

A common reason for a refer status is having a bankruptcy listed in the credit history. For example, there is an FHA loan submitted and a Chapter 13 discharge is showing up in the findings less than two years old. A refer/eligible will be the result because the discharge was less than two years old. Another reason is a thin credit file. A thin credit file is a credit report with very few, if any, open credit accounts.

When a lender receives a refer/eligible, the task is to find other positive aspects of the loan file that compensate for whatever is causing the application to be returned without a preapproval. An extended job history is a compensating factor. Having cash reserves left over after the loan closes is another. Maybe there is another source of regular income that doesnrsquo;t have a long enough history of being received.

Borrowers donrsquo;t have to figure out on their own how to correct a refer/eligible, the loan officer will be able to provide a list of what is needed. Once the items causing the refer/eligible are included in the file, the loan can then be returned to the underwriter for a final review and ultimate approval.

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Great Exterior Tips for Selling Properties

Make Minor Repairs

One of the easiest and affordable things that you could do to improve the overall curb appeal of your home would be to make minor repairs to your property. If you have some past due maintenance needs or other repairs, making these repairs before you list your home for sale would be a great option. Any past due maintenance and repair needs will look like red flags to a potential buyer and making these repairs yourself could go a long way.

Clean Up Landscaping

When you are looking to improve the exterior of your home, one of the most important things that you need to do is clean up your landscaping. One of the biggest turnoffs that can occur when someone sees a new home is a landscaping plan that looks messy and disheveled. Not only will it look like a big project, but it would also hurt the overall curb appeal of the property. Because of this, you should spend cleaning up your landscaping all over the home before listing it for sale.

Pressure Wash

Nobody wants to move into a property that looks dirty and messy. Because of this, you should do everything you can to make the exterior of your home look as clean as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to use a pressure washer to clean all of your siding and walkways. This will help to make your entire home look fresh and clean and will give great curb appeal. When using a pressure washer, you need to make sure that you use the right setting for your type of exterior walls.

Pool Installation

Depending on where you live, one of the best things that you could do to your home would be to install a pool. A new pool will not only help to improve your outdoor living space, but it will give a great place to entertain. If you have a pool already, you may want to have it repaired and give it a face-lift. Both of these options will help to improve the overall appearance. When hiring swimming pool contractors, residents will be able to receive some additional ideas that could be used to make the pool look more attractive.

Structural Repairs

If you are selling your home, all of the potential buyers will likely want to have a home inspection completed. Because of this, you should look out for things inside and outside of your own could be alarming to buyers. For the exterior of the home, one of the biggest things that you should look for are structural concerns. If there are any structural issues that you see, you should hire a professional to examine them. This could help to prevent your home sale from falling apart during the inspection process.


If you have lighting on the exterior of your property, you should make sure that it is functional and turned on. This will help to ensure that your lighting system is working right. If you have a visitor at night, it will also give a great curb appeal improvement to any buyer.

When you are looking to improve the landscaping and overall exterior of your home, you should consider the individual needs of your property. A local real estate professional should be able to provide you with a fair assessment of your property to get you a better sense of what needs to be done.

Full Story >

Preparing to Buy Your New Home 5 Things You Must Know

Location Location Location

Be sure to look into the local school district. If you have children, it goes without saying that the quality of the school is key to your childs educational experience. The school evaluation, however, also includes the quality of the grounds and facilities. This is a major structure in the neighborhood and its condition can affect the surrounding property values. For childless homeowners, the school districts are still a factor. Because the school quality influences home buying decisions, it has a direct effect on resale and property value.

nbsp;Proximity is not just about schools. Consider how close you need to be from modern conveniences like the grocery store, freeway entrance, the mall or a local watering hole. For prospective homeowners that prefer a rural life>

Financial Commitment

Purchasing a home is one of the largest decisions that most people make. It was once expected that nearly every individual buy a home, but today, that isnt necessarily financially feasible. Real estate is a long-term investment and your timeline must be considered. If you are moving within a few years, you might want to rent. Although real estate is a great investment, it is not a short-term investment. Having your money tied to property might affect your liquidity when you need to move.

If you are moving into an unfamiliar area, you might not want to buy immediately. Taking the time to look round, gives you the opportunity to learn about neighborhoods and community points of interest that will drive your property decisions.

Running the Well Dry

Most spend every penny to get into a new house, especially first-time buyers, but this is not the best practice. Be sure to have a contingency fund for all of the unexpected costs. Although the home warranty covers most of the house, most operate on a pre-payment reimbursement plan. But warranty aside, other costs will arise. For example, most power companies require a deposit. If you have money set aside in your home fund right from the beginning, you can add to it as you go for post-warranty work.

Loving Your Space

Your new home is more than indoor living. Your surrounding outdoor space will provide hours of entertainment for your friends and family. Landscaping the front yard for curb appeal is important. If you are not the hands-on type, you might want to consider a home with a functional landscape. Regardless, the front yard adds aesthetic value to the homes appeal.

But lets be real, the backyard is where the entertaining happens. If the home you are considering needs more zip, consider installing a pool or hot tub to guarantee hours of family fun. Try looking upnbsp;some great pool ideas that will fit your backyard. Also, having a barbeque area with dedicated conversation space, a kid play area, or a fun space for the dogs are all things to consider when looking at the perimeter areas of a home.

Untapped Potential

Visualizing beyond today is also key. If the area has undeveloped or underdeveloped land in the surrounding areas, research the community master plan or land ownership. It would be unfortunate to buy a beautiful home and have an industrial area built too close. This also goes the other way. Taking a risk on an older property with older buildings that are ripe for repurposing might be a smart investment too.

Whatever you decide when looking for your new home, be sure to think about what works for you. This is your investment. Are you ready to invest in your future?

Full Story >

5 Ways to Make Your Backyard Look Amazing

You have your dream house and it even has a nice backyard, yet you arenrsquo;t quite sure how to make your backyard stand out. Yoursquo;ve thrown around a couple of ideas but none of them have really stuck. This is normal and it takes some time to figure out what you want to do to make your backyard a place of refuge and enjoyment. Depending on your life>

nbsp;Here are five ideas that could be added to your backyard to make it look fabulous:


This can be a win-win situation because you get a great patio and you donrsquo;t have to water or take care of that part of your lawn anymore. A patio does require some upkeep, but it isnrsquo;t as intense as keeping a lawn looking pristine. A patio is a great place to invite friends over and have great late night evenings or afternoon tea outdoors.

If you have no idea where to start, let alone how to decorate it, there are a lot of patio ideas out on the internet to get your creative juices flowing.nbsp; nbsp;


If parties with friends every night isnrsquo;t really your thing, consider starting a garden. If you enjoy being out in the yard surrounded by nature and getting a little dirty, a garden could be perfect for you. There are a lot of benefits to having a garden because it provides you with fresh food that is straight from your own backyard.

Having a garden in your backyard is a beautiful way to give your yard some color. You can have a flower garden, a produce garden, or maybe even an herb and succulent garden if that is more your speed. Whatever you decide on, make sure it is something that is appealing and fun.


Bring the outdoors and camping to your own backyard with a barbeque or a barbeque pit. You can spend your summer grilling away and trying new recipes, letting you bring the camping food home without having to plan a camping trip and worrying about traveling. You can also enjoy the company of your friends as you host a summer barbeque. This is a great way to expand your cooking skills and add grilling to the list. You can try a variety of recipes and the list of foods to grill can seem endless.nbsp;nbsp;


Who doesnrsquo;t want a pool in their backyard? When taken care of and when it is well-maintained, pools can be a great way to beat the heat without having to go to the local swimming pool. There are a variety of pools that are made for each specific individual and their needs. Custom pools can be built by companies and will blow you out of the water with how gorgeous they look.nbsp;

Having a swimming pool in your backyard saves you time and the stress of loading family members up into a car every time they want to go to the pool. You and your kids can have the freedom of going to the pool whenever they want on a daily basis with a swimming pool in your backyard.


This is a perfect idea if you plan on having a family or if you have small kids. Treehouses are a fun way to add character to your backyard. Your kids or yourself can have the joy of decorating and painting the inside or outside of the treehouse. This will give your kid priceless childhood memories of being outside and enjoying something that is a somewhat rare find in backyardrsquo;s today. You can build one yourself or hire someone to build a treehouse for you.

Itrsquo;s time to turn your backyard into your dream backyard.nbsp;

Full Story >

Seeing It All When Viewing Property

When buyers attend an open house or view a listed property with a real estate professional, itrsquo;s what buyers donrsquo;t see that may be most important.

When buyers >

To start with, itrsquo;s essential to view listed properties with a professional who is working for you, not the seller. At first meeting with a real estate professional, and before you share negotiated details like how much you have to spend, ask the ldquo;Who do you work for?rdquo; question. For instance, real estate professionals who represent the seller through the listing agreement work for the seller.

To create the best context for viewing suitable properties, your professional will explain location, including value based on the community, the street, and the >

Inexperience in viewing can cause buyers to make a misplaced emotional connection with the property or to emotionally turn-off before fully appreciating a propertyrsquo;s benefits.

Six Essential Questions for Seeing It All When Viewing Property
Before you enter or as you tour a property, ask your real estate professional:

1. How can I avoid being distracted by decor or a mess?

You understand that while the land cannot be moved, the house can be dramatically changed or replaced. That knowledge does not automatically make you great at seeing beyond sellersrsquo; choices and preferences. Real estate professionals have viewed hundreds of homes and have learned not to be distracted by decor or staging. Ask your professional to point out any thing that might distract you from true value or that would go unappreciated. Are there enough electrical outlets and storage in each room? Acoustics matter, especially with open concept.

For example, are main floor bathrooms sound insulated? Staging may use scaled-down furniture to make rooms appear larger or use striking furniture placement to camouflage awkward-to-decorate areas. If you have special furnishings to accommodate, like a large bed or dining table, be prepared to measure spaces yourself to verify fit and feasibility.

2. Are permits and receipts available for recent renovations?

Ask exactly what work, including energy-efficiency and environmental features, was done and by whom. Are copies of renovation receipts, permits, and warranties available? A sellerrsquo;s do-it-yourself DIY efforts may not be up to code or durable. If problems arise later, insurance companies may not pay your claim if DIY work by the previous owners is involved. While you view the property, ask your professional to point out details that demonstrate solid workmanship and those that reveal sloppy or amateurish work. For instance, laying the floor down first in a kitchen or bathroom renovation is the right approach. This ensures appliances slide out without damaging the floor when repairs are necessary and that a leak is visible on the floor not hidden under it.

3. Are there signs of water damage or flooding?

Sellers can cover up water stains, but other evidence, including smells, may linger. ldquo;When did the basement last leak?rdquo; is the right question to have sellers answer. Basements leak at sometime in their lives, so discover the history of the foundation and its walls and yoursquo;ll know what to base an offer on. If waterproofing or drainage management was done, are copies of receipts, warranties etc. available? Ask about area flooding and what was done on the property and street to protect the home in the future. If flooding was an issue in the past, flood insurance may be wise, but at what cost?

4. How old is...?

Ask how old the roof, furnace, air conditioning system, wiring, plumbing, windows, applianceshellip;are, so you can calculate what costs and repairs to expect in the first few years of ownership. For example, a five-year-old fridge may already be failing. An improperly-installed roof or one installed over a layer or two of shingles may not last the twenty-five years that roofs used to.

5. What future renovations would be practical and cost-effective?

Renovations, which may seem obvious as you walk through a listed property, may have been explored by current owners and found to be too expensive to undertake. That may be why they are moving or at least one main reason. Buyers intent on open concept may be surprised to discover that simply removing a wall can be a very expensive project if the wall is load-bearing and packed full of wiring and pipes. Structural engineers are the ones to ask when you need to know which walls are load-bearing since walls just look like walls to the rest of us.

6. Is what I see what I will get?

Property lines can only be accurately established through a professional survey. Is there an up-to-date survey available? Fences, hedges, roof gutters, and outbuildings may seem to be on the listed property but may actually be on neighborrsquo;s land. Open lawn may seem an ideal location for a pool or basketball court, but invisible easements and other rights of way may prohibit construction. Ask while your viewing. Donrsquo;t assume and get a nasty surprise when you move in.

Pictures and video may be helpful as you walk through a property, but ldquo;understandingrdquo; and ldquo;seeingrdquo; more than the camera may capture is vital.
Buyers who spend more time behind the camera than inspecting and observing for themselves may not learn as much about the value and suitability of the property as they could.

When viewing a property, remember, you are not there to document the visit or to take over someone elsersquo;s home. The purpose in viewing is to see beyond the obvious for value and potential from your point of view. What you see and discover with a professionalrsquo;s help will determine where value lies for you as the offer is created and negotiations begin.

Additional resources by PJ Wade
bull; ldquo;Home Buyer Assumptions Are Expensiverdquo;
bull; ldquo;Home Buying Checklist: What Else Does Location Mean?ldquo;
bull; ldquo;Buying: From Whose Perspective?rdquo;

Full Story >

3 Things to Consider Before Investing in a Rental Property

Of course, itrsquo;s not exactly passive income. Yoursquo;ll probably be managing renters, hiring yard care and cleaning, and taking care of repairs. Even if you hire a management company, you still need to ensure that these responsibilities are covered.

Itrsquo;s also important to make sure the investment property you choose sets you up for success. There are a lot of mistakes to avoid. With that in mind, here are three things to consider before investing in a rental property.

Understand the Numbers

Before you invest in any rental property, itrsquo;s vital to understand both your financial situation prior to the purchase, as well as, the financial results after the purchase. Letrsquo;s look at each one.

Your Starting Financial Status

Before you even think about property investment, make sure you have everything you needmdash;personally and professionally. Are you paying your bills easily? Are you in trouble with debt? Do you have enough cash flow for emergencies, insurance, and retirement for your personal life?

If not, now is not the time to invest in a rental property. You canrsquo;t buy a home and expect renters to arrive and bail you out of a difficult situation. You want to invest from a position of strength, not an area of desperation.

Once your personal life is in order, take a look at your savings. Do you have money for a down payment? Can you afford homeownerrsquo;s insurance, taxes, fees, and repairs? Remember, the more you borrow, the less your property will return to you.

The Rental Property Itself

Once yoursquo;re in the right position to invest in a property, you want to understand the numbers behind each purchase option you evaluate. You need to choose one where the return on investment is strong, to ensure that you will actually have an investment and not a burden on your hands.

Consider the location and size of the property to determine how much rent it will command. Think about whether quality tenants want to live in that area. Donrsquo;t overlook the repairs yoursquo;ll need to make if itrsquo;s not a turnkey property.

Compare your return against your expected expenses to make sure yoursquo;re receiving positive cash flow from the property over time. Think about taxes, fees, periodic repairs, and anything yoursquo;re paying to a management company. Donrsquo;t forget to factor in the mortgage payments as well

Look for a Desirable Location

High-quality renters are attracted to top-of-the-line spaces. It may seem like a great deal to invest in a run-down property or an undesirable part of town because you can get it for a low price. However, even if the expected lower rent is a good return, the truth is that you wonrsquo;t get quality renters.

You need to find an area that people want to live in long-term. Otherwise, your property will be a revolving door, and yoursquo;ll always be looking for new tenants. Each month of vacancy is money out of your pocket and dramatically reduces your return on investment.

Think about the good schools and transit routes in your area and look for desirable properties near those amenities. If you can find something near great restaurants, parks, and entertainment, thatrsquo;s even better.

Of course, these better properties will cost more. However, knowing that you have a desirable location with long-term tenants will make the financial outcome worthwhile. You will also have the added benefit of appreciation. In more desirable areas, the value of your investment will appreciate much faster than in undesirable areas.

Consider Your Risks

Any investment has a risk of loss. Thatrsquo;s why therersquo;s the possibility of a return When yoursquo;re considering an investment property, you need to think carefully about the risks of renting and be prepared to handle them.

Vacancy is probably the most significant risk. Having months of no tenants means having months of no income, but your expenses will remain the same. Itrsquo;s important to limit this risk as much as possible by choosing a high-quality property in a desirable area. You should also budget to have some additional cash available in case you face lean times.

You also want to be prepared for major repairs. Sometimes these can be planned, and sometimes they pop up out of nowhere. Having proper insurance and a reserve fund is vital.

Finally, you need to be ready in case you have difficult tenants. Some may pay late, promise to pay but never do so, or even need to be evicted. Handling these issues is time-consuming, so be sure to have a plan in place ahead of time.

Be Prepared Before You Invest

Having a rental property can be highly profitable if you do it well. Once yoursquo;ve taken these considerations into account, yoursquo;ll be able to tell if you have the right opportunity in front of you.

When you go in with a clear vision, yoursquo;ll set yourself up for success.

Full Story >

How to Make Your New House Feel Like a Home

Have Big Projects Done First

Feeling comfy and cozy is all but impossible when there are major renovations to be done that may leave sections of the house blocked off and covered in sawdust, so get these done first. That includes knocking down walls for an open floorplan, replacing old flooring or remodeling entire kitchens and bathrooms. In fact, itrsquo;s probably better to have this completed before you move in.

Unless yoursquo;re an expert yourself, yoursquo;re going to need a contractor. This isnrsquo;t cheap, either, with their services ranging in price from 2,855 to 12,333 in Ft. Worth. That means you need to be careful in who you select. An expert at HGTV suggests getting referrals from friends and neighbors, then following up by checking the remodelerrsquo;s credentials and getting references.

Get Your Own Hands Dirty

There are a number of smaller projects that you can handle yourself, so keep a close eye on those power tools during the move. You may want to start with the basics, such as refinishing hardwood floors, setting down new tiles or painting. The latter especially helps with settling in, as you can choose a color that reflects who you are and your sense of >

Once thatrsquo;s done, why not get artistic? Consider using stones to create a mosaic walkway for your garden or cutting an old door in half to repurpose it as a shelf. When yoursquo;ve built up enough confidence in your skills, you can tackle that gazebo project that yoursquo;ve always wanted.

Add a Bit of Your History

By now, you should have some idea where to place those photographs of your family. Those and other personal items should give you a sense of continuity in your life even though you are someplace new. Yoursquo;ll get the same effect by incorporating heirlooms into the decor, even if theyrsquo;re not the best fit. As designer Phillip Thomas told The Wall Street Journal, ldquo;There are times when sentiment trumps everything.rdquo;

Other items yoursquo;ll want to put on prominent display to add warmth include old hardcover books and gifts yoursquo;ve received from loved ones. Hopefully, you havenrsquo;t left your childrenrsquo;s art behind, as that can be incorporated in numerous ways that donrsquo;t involve a refrigerator and some magnets. Collages and wall displays are just a few ways to give it a bit of pep.

Explore the Neighborhood

You need to know where everything is anyway, so you might as well take a drive, bike ride or walk with the family. Things to look out for include the practical, such as banks and grocery stores, as well as the entertaining, like restaurants and bars.

While yoursquo;re out and about, introduce yourself to the locals and neighbors, but be sure to be courteous.nbsp;For starters, if someonersquo;s quickly entering or leaving their home, theyrsquo;ve probably got something to do and donrsquo;t want to be disturbed. The best tactic may be to knock on their door at a less busy time and say hello. Donrsquo;t forget to invite them when you ...

Throw a Party

Itrsquo;s not only a great way to break the ice with the neighbors, your friends and family will learn the directions to your new dwelling. Besides, the liquor cabinet is still empty, and that could be easily fixed with a BYOB policy. Other ideas include throwing a local culture shindig in which everyone brings a local specialty.

After the party, itrsquo;s time to clean up, and thatrsquo;s when you know yoursquo;re really home.


Full Story >

Ask the HOA Expert: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Conflict caused by concealing the truth, bending others to your will, or seeking revenge is clearly counter productive. But conflict can also be fueled by good intentions in a desire to be understood, loved, respected, or vindicated.

Conflict can arouse different kinds of responses. One response is to run, hide or deny the problem exists. Another response is to attack either verbally, physically or legally. Neither of these responses diminishes the conflict and usually has quite the opposite effect. The only real long term solutions to conflict are peacemaking responses like:

1. Overlook the Conflict. Just because we get slapped doesn=t mean we have to get even. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves only the blind and toothless.

2. Reconciliation. Making amends is not only the right thing to do, it >

3. Mediation. Pride is a high mountain to climb. Sometimes, a little help from a friend is needed to build a bridge of reconciliation.

4. Accountability. Rather than stand idly by while a neighbor engages in self destructive or harmful behavior, intercede in a caring way.

Peacemakers do not avoid conflict but confront it directly with the goal of reconciliation. Reconciliation is not always easy to achieve because the human heart can be hard. But blessed are the peacemakers who point the way.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.netnbsp;

Full Story >

Gen Xers Driving Multi-Generational Housing Trend

This Is Us. Jane the Virgin. Black-ish. What do they have in common? They are all family television programs that have members of multiple generations living under one roof. But the reality of multi-generational living is more than storyline fodder.

According to the 2019 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report by the National Association of REALTORSreg; NAR, this continues to be a growing trend among homebuyers, and itrsquo;s being driven largely by Gen Xers. Not only does this group make up the second-largest band of homebuyers today at 24, one in six have purchased a multi-gen home.

That surpasses ldquo;younger Baby Boomers as the generation most likely to do so,rdquo; said Multi-Housing News. ldquo;Of the Gen X multi-generational buyers, 52 percent said they did so to accommodate adult children who moved back home or never left.rdquo; Nine percent of millennials purchased a multi-generational property they could share with aging parents, per the report.

There are a number of factors at play here, such as the rising housing prices encompassing both for sale properties and rentals, and the staggering amount of student debt holding that may be holding buyers back. According to the NAR report, ldquo;Gen Xers and older millennial buyers carry the highest median student debt balancesrdquo; at 30,000.

ldquo;The high cost of rent and lack of affordable housing inventory is sending adult children back to their parentsrsquo; homes either out of necessity or an attempt to save money,rdquo; said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. ldquo;While these multigenerational homes may not be what a majority of Americans expect out of homeownership, this method allows younger potential buyers the opportunity to gain their financial footing and transition into homeownership. In fact, younger millennials are the most likely to move directly out of their parentsrsquo; homes into homeownership, circumventing renting altogether.rdquo;

If yoursquo;re looking to take the multigenerational plunge, these tips will help you find the right place and make it work.

Look for a home that was built with multi-generational living in mind

Schumacher Homes, Lennar, and Plantation Homes are just a few of the builders offering a multi-gen solution in a brand-new residence.

Tailor your home search

If a brand-new home or one thatrsquo;s already prepared for multi-generational living isnrsquo;t doable, look for a home thatrsquo;s easily convertible. A downstairs bedroom and bath is key for older residents, and if it has a bathroom en-suitemdash;even better A home with a basement or attic may seem like an ideal place to turn into a grandparentrsquo;s haven, but stairs can be dangerous. Also, if an aging parent uses a walker or wheelchair, the upstairs may become inaccessible to them.

A property with a guesthouse or enough land on which to place a granny suite or tiny home is another option. Just make sure the land is zoned properly to accommodate this type of structure.

Make smart renovations

Why not just renovate your existing home? Taking down walls to create an open floorplan is a smart move that can have a positive impact on your homersquo;s value. Creating a more open space can also help make a home more accessible for aging parents.

The National Association of Home Buildersrsquo; NAHB Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist recommends a ldquo;5-foot by 5-foot clear/turn space in living area, kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom.rdquo; Wide hallways that measure a minimum of 36-inches across, good lighting, and non-slip flooring are a few more key recommendations.

Full Story >

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Updated: Saturday, April 20, 2019

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